Program to Help Homeless Teens Expands to Pinellas

Mar 25, 2015

A Hillsborough County project to help teens is expanding across the bay with the help of some well known local dignitaries.

Mayor Rick Kriseman speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for Starting Right, Now a program to help homeless teens in Pinellas County
Credit M.S Butler

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Tampa Bay Rays President Matt Silverman and others broke ground Tuesday on what will soon will be a residential facility for homeless teens in Pinellas County.

The project, funded through private donations, comes from the efforts of Start Right Now a program working to end homelessness for area teens.

 Vicki Sokolik  is the founder and executive director.

"Right now we operate in Hillsborough County solely. This is our first expansion project, hopefully a pilot program, to see if we can actually launch us across the state," she says.

The program became controversial following a 2013 Tampa Bay Times article indicating the program was suing former members for the expenses incurred for uncompleted programs.

Participating students were required to agree to an 18 month commitment to the program as well as a list of living and employment requirements.

Each student enrolled receives housing, food and other resources as well as one-0n-one mentoring.

The program offers residential housing for teens who are not eligible for foster care because of a parents death, incarceration or other factors.

Starting in January of next year 25 girls will move into the new building.  Twenty-five boys will get a space of their own soon after.